Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 5th October 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 4:31 pm, 5th October 2020

I will start by answering a couple of factual questions. As I said in my statement, as of 9 am this morning, 51% of these cases have been contacted by the contact tracing system, and their contacts are contacted immediately after the initial contact—concurrently.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the tiering system. Absolutely, extra support will go to areas where there is an increased number of cases. He asked about the criteria in the proposed approach. Of course, we cannot have fixed and specific criteria, because it depends on the nature of the outbreak. For instance, if there was an outbreak in one individual employer, we would not necessarily put the whole local area into local action. We try to make the intervention as targeted and as localised as possible, but sometimes it needs to be broad, as it is in the north-west and across large parts of the north-east. For example, the intervention in the west midlands covers four of the seven council areas of the west midlands, but not the other three, because that follows the data.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the particular IT system in question. The problem emerged in a PHE legacy system. We had already decided in July to replace this system, and I commissioned a new data system to replace the legacy one. Contracts were awarded in August, and the work on the upgrade is already under way. While, of course, we have to solve the problem immediately, we also need to ensure that we upgrade this system, and we have already put in place the contracts to ensure that that happens. In the meantime, it is critical that we work together to fix these issues, which were identified by PHE staff working hard late on Friday night. I want to thank the PHE staff who did so much work to resolve this issue over the weekend.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s final question, we need to ensure that we contact trace all those cases as soon as possible. In two days, we managed to get to 51% of them, and that work is ongoing.